The most important reason for harnessing OER is that openly licensed educational materials have tremendous potential to contribute to improving the quality and effectiveness of education. The challenges of growing access, combined with the ongoing rollout of ICT infrastructure into educational institutions, indicates that it is becoming increasingly important for them to support, in a planned and deliberate manner, the development and improvement of curricula, ongoing programme and course design, planning of contact sessions with students, development of quality teaching and learning materials, and design of effective assessment – activities all aimed at improving the teaching and learning environment while managing the cost of this through increased use of resource-based learning.
Given this, the transformative educational potential of OER revolves around three linked possibilities:
- Increased availability of high quality, relevant learning materials can contribute to more productive students and educators. Because OER removes restrictions around copying resources, it can reduce the cost of accessing educational materials. In many systems, royalty payments for text books and other educational materials constitute a significant proportion of the overall cost, while processes of procuring permission to use copyrighted material can also be very time-consuming and expensive.
- The principle of allowing adaptation of materials provides one mechanism amongst many for constructing roles for students as active participants in educational processes, who learn best by doing and creating, not by passively reading and absorbing. Content licences that encourage activity and creation by students through re-use and adaptation of that content can make a significant contribution to creating more effective learning environments.
- OER has potential to build capacity by providing institutions and educators access, at low or no cost, to the means of production to develop their competence in producing educational materials and carrying out the necessary instructional design to integrate such materials into high quality programmes of learning.
Deliberate openness thus acknowledges that:
- Investment in designing effective educational environments is critically important to good education.
- A key to productive systems is to build on common intellectual capital, rather than duplicating similar efforts.
- All things being equal, collaboration will improve quality.
- As education is a contextualized practice, it is important to make it easy to adapt materials imported from different settings where this is required, and this should be encouraged rather than restricted.